When Male Authors Write Male Violence ‹ Literary Hub

In a 1994 Guardian review by Ryu Murakami Piercing, filmmaker and writer Chris Petit claimed that there was no more obvious influence on the novel than American author David Lynch. “Piercing is a Japanese extension of Lynch’s world,” Petit suggested: “Surreal, sexually angsty, highly neurotic, both self-aware and naive. This is, I think, an accurate observation; I would add that one of the most Lynchian features of the book is its depiction of the sexes, in a very simple and old-fashioned division of “male” and “female”, as being engaged in a form of psychosexual warfare with each other. others. , each at once terrified and mad with desire.

David Lynch’s films, of course, are not the only form of media in which a man and a woman – serially misunderstanding each other, cautiously going around in circles, not knowing whether they are enemies or lovers – slip into a relationship madness for two– delirium style: think of romance novels, or romantic comedy. True, Murakami’s novel begins with a man imagining sending his own child off with an ice pick, and it ends shortly after someone tries to gouge out someone else’s eye. with a can opener, and as such, to characterize it as romance might amount to madness.

Still, I think there’s an argument to be made that the author deliberately muddles the tropes of romantic love as they appear in books and film, and in fact does it quite well so that Piercing manages to say more about the romance novel’s bizarre characterization of relationships between men and women, in bed and in marriage and in the domestic realm, than most actual satires of the genre I can think of.

In the opening pages of the novel, we meet Kawashima Masayuki, a married man with a baby girl who – like a lot of married men with brand new babies tend to be, in my experience – is going through a major crisis. His wife Yoko, a domestic goddess who gave up her job at a major bakery manufacturer to teach other women how to bake, is cartoonishly perfect. She is patient, kind and beautiful; she smells of freshly baked bread, and we imagine her hair must be immaculate. “He couldn’t believe,” Kawashima thinks, “that he had managed to meet, fall in love with, and marry a woman like this.”

Marriage, he suggests, changed him, mostly for the better, and the nightmares and strange outbursts of violent rage that welled up inside him from his horribly traumatic childhood haven’t affected him for years. . “Until,” he admits gravely, hovering over his daughter’s crib, “ten days ago.” It turns out that in his youth he stabbed a former girlfriend in the stomach with an ice pick, and the urges that drove him to do so are resurfacing after a period of slumber now that his wife’s novelty runs out. (Show me a beautiful woman baking perfect bread, to paraphrase the saying, and I’ll show you a man who is sick of eating perfect fresh bread every day.)

Isn’t it at least a bit of a joke that men with midlife crises, even deranged psychopaths, are essentially all the same?

When Murakami summed up Kawashima’s personality by noting his preference for colder weather outside than for the welcoming interior of his home – in heated rooms, Kawashima thinks, “he often felt the contours of his body, the boundary between him and the outside world, growing unsettlingly out of focus” – it also suggests the feeling of being half of a marriage and a participant in a family unit, the loss of individual identity that can be both heartwarming and unnerving.

The problem, according to Kawashima, is that the mysterious voices commanding him to do evil tell him that his baby girl should be his last target. (In a bit of gallows humor, they chose an ice pick as their weapon partly because of her former crime, but also partly because when Yoko was pregnant, she and Kawashima watched Paul Verhoeven Primary instinct.)

Since being the father of a girl isn’t enough to stop Kawashima from fantasizing about killing and hurting women, he decides to hire a sex worker instead, then murder her in a bedroom. ‘hotel. That the sex worker is also someone’s daughter doesn’t seem to cross her mind, but that fact will become an important plot point later in the novel – Murakami is a firm believer in the parenting creed so famous. , and if Piercing is a kind of allegory on the exciting mutual destructiveness that often characterizes the relationships between men and women in love, it is also an allegory on the terrible influence that our parents have on our desires.

Faking a business trip, like a guy in a bad movie planning an affair, Kawashima meticulously plans the murder in a notebook, eventually deciding that a girl from an agency specializing in S&M would be suitable for his purposes. The agency, in an act of kismet that will ultimately end in something like a cute encounter – a sordid encounter, perhaps, to use a phrase coined by Thomas Pynchon in inherent vice– sends a pretty maniac with a history of self-harming violence named Chiaki. Hand, meet the glove; knife, meet scabbard. It’s fate, a couple as incredibly ideal as any in the movies.

What follows is a twisted prank with more gore: Just as Kawashima prepares for the promised act, Chiaki excuses himself to go to the bathroom and, entering a fugue state, begins to stab himself furiously in the thigh. with scissors. “She wants me here, but not too close,” Kawashima realizes, after recovering from the shock of catching her. “She freaks out if I come near, and she freaks out if I try to leave.” A violent game of cat and mouse begins, with each side pursuing their own insane goal. “He’s a very special person, a very important person,” Chiaki concludes as Kawashima rushes him to the hospital. “It’s not that easy to meet people like that.” “She’s one of us,” observes the voice in Kawashima’s head, admiringly, as he debates whether or not to follow through on her possible murder once she’s been fixed and fired. “A soul sister.” “Her face was completely messy,” Chiaki thinks fondly later, as they take a cab to her apartment, “and yet it was also the cutest thing she’s ever seen. She had a sudden urge to punch that face. Not just give him a little slap on the cheek, but hit him as hard as she could, with her fist or a bottle or a key or something, right in the eye.

Sometimes love is a thriller, and sometimes it’s a horror story, extreme and pleasurably guilty and utterly devoid of common sense or sense.

Neither Kawashima nor Chiaki are what one would generally describe as a complete character, in the sense that they have no obvious attributes other than those that feed the plot: Kawashima is an outward conformist whose abuses in the childhood turned him into a dissociative sadist. , and Chiaki is an eccentric optimist who still believes in love despite the fact that, wouldn’t you know, childhood abuse turned her into a dissociative masochist. They have this simplicity in common with the heroes and heroines of paperback romance novels, who tend to exist only to be pressed together like dolls or puzzle pieces by the author, carrying us from one sexual or amorous (or, in this case, violent) outburst put the piece to the next.

I get why men who write or otherwise create narratives about misogynistic violence are viewed with suspicion, but the uncomfortable truth is that sometimes it’s male artists who do the best and most revealing work on men being complete shit . Undress Piercing of his big puppet, ecstatic violence, simplify the plot, and you have the story of a man in the middle of a midlife crisis, regretting his paternity, seeing his wife as a docile servant, leaving to fulfill his fantasies with a worker in the sex – then discovering that she is a nightmarish maniacal pixie girl sent by fate to reflect his extremely singular desires.

Isn’t rote enough for Hollywood? Isn’t it at least a bit of a joke that men with midlife crises, even deranged psychopaths, are essentially all the same? That Chiaki regards his would-be killer as his soulmate, too, becomes less absurd when one considers, for example, Fifty shades of Greya book in which the billionaire romantic hero woos his heroine by showing up at the hardware store where she works to buy ropes and zip ties, getting her to sign an exclusive sex contract, watching both her diet and birth control, and forbidding her to socialize freely with her male peers.

“Being able to choose your own pain is kind of scary,” Chiaki thought, “but it’s also wonderful.” She happens to be considering getting a tattoo when that thought comes to mind, but the line is such an ideal description of the self-harm inherent in a certain type of love – the willingness to risk annihilation. complete for the sake of self. desires, willingly walking in the slave jaws of the beast – that it functions as a key to a reading of Piercing as a satire of heterosexuality, too. Love is not always a romance novel; sometimes love is a thriller, and sometimes it’s a horror story, extreme and pleasurably guilty and utterly devoid of reason or meaning.


Which, as you know, means violence: self-harm as art and entertainment by Philippa Snow is available from Repeater Books.

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